Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach
354 pages, W.W. Norton and Company, April 2013
I like Mary Roach.
I feel like Mary Roach and I could hang out and have dinner and be wildly inappropriate together. Not, like, throw straw wrappers at the waiters and laugh loudly enough to bother the other patrons, or anything. But say things like, “Well, what DOES happen to a person that dies unattended in a hot apartment and isn’t discovered for a week?” and neither of us would think the other person was insane or ghoulish, just scientifically curious about such things. (Because, seriously, things like this fascinate me. I mean, sure, they also gross me out a little, I’m only human. But it’s more of a “Ew, gross, TELL ME MORE!” thing. Don’t judge.)
I’ve read all but a couple of Roach’s other books and really enjoyed them. The science behind sex and the science behind death (Bonk and Stiff?) Yes, please. And it’s not just the science. These books are funny. She loves a good euphemism. She loves to make the uptight sciency-types squirm, but not really on purpose, just by being really curious and asking a lot of questions. And she loves when someone’s last name matches their profession (Mr. LeBeouf being a cattle inspector, for example. OK, fine, this is really funny if you speak French. Oui, oui, c’est vrai!)
I liked this one as well – maybe not as much as the other two I’ve read, but listen, I don’t know if anything can measure up to sex and death. Those are some pretty big shoes to fill. (And I’m obsessed with death, and who doesn’t like sex?)
This book is about everything related to digestion – from our mouths all the way down to our…well, waste-removal systems. That would be taken care of by Dr. Colón. Heh.
I like things that people consider icky? So I was totally into this. Things like an entire chapter about a man who had a wound heal improperly so scientists could watch him digest food THROUGH A HOLE IN HIS SIDE ZOMG? Totally made me exclaim AND marvel. This is a book about burping and farting and different forms your poo can take and constipation and special underwear so you won’t gas out your significant other and how it’s totally ok to lick spit off your lips, but it is NOT ok to lick spit off your arm once you’ve spit on it because it’s a cultural taboo to re-ingest your own saliva. (Also kind of gross, but that’s beside the point.) If these kinds of things gross you out, probably avoid this. But they’re not egregiously gross. It’s SCIENCY. It’s the science of how all these things work. How our saliva helps with the breaking down of our food; how our stomach works; how the intestines work; how waste is produced. I love things like this. I mean, it’s not like you can SEE in there. You need someone to tell you what’s happening. And Mary Roach does! In a very funny sciency way!
I’m more of a fiction person (I always will be) but I’ve been reading a few more non-fiction books at the start of this year, and am glad I found this one. Now I know that the scientific term for my stomach growling is borborygmus, and doesn’t that make you all feel so much smarter? Yes. Yes, it does. You are WELCOME.